Friday, May 21, 2010

Long Overdue Update

I hate it when my schedule prohibits me from updating this blog less than once a week or so, because it tends to mean that my life is exciting/demanding/high-pace enough to keep me from finding the time (those same qualities tend to contribute to good writing fodder). I have a had a blast the last few weeks of my life, thanks in big part to my wonderful family and friends. I'm more than fortunate to have all of you in my life, and I can't overstate that enough. The strength of my relationships with those close to me is paramount in all that I am doing with my life - if I had even the slightest doubts in my ability to maintain good relationships with all of you during my travels, none of this would be possible. It's a testament to the quality of the people I have chosen to surround myself with that I am doing what I am with my life.

This same insight has motivated a bit of reflection on my part: what is the price of my travels - not in dollars and cents, but in relationship dynamic? Am I a better person and more experienced because of the number of places I've been and people I've met? Have I allowed my spirit to grow by exposing myself to variant perspectives? Or have I forsaken growth of the relationships nearest to my heart - my friends, family, lovers - by placing these distances between myself and the people who matter most? Only time will tell (and even that assertion is a bold and fairly optimistic one), but I am confident that the risk is worth the reward, and I am imbued by the successes of those have have come before me. After all, travel, for me, is a search, and finding those who are the foundation of my inner circle (outside of my family) was a consequence of travel in the first place. As a matter of fact, I don't know anybody from where I was born.... I'm going to have to get on that. Who knows - maybe the person I'm supposed to meet the most (be it a friend, lover, mentor, etc.) is where I got started. I'll be sure to keep my eyes and ears open when I'm there in October on my bike.

In the last few weeks I have spent time in Seattle, the Washington D.C. area, Miami, Norfolk and Richmond, and Pittsburgh - and I'm writing this entry from a Madison, WI hotel. This country is large. And if you drive across the Appalachian area, you're going to have to pay for it. They've got some fancy roads out there, and I've rung up a $34.50 bill in tolls already. That includes a missed toll on the Chicago Skyway, which I had to go online and pay (in the amount of 80 cents) in order to avoid a $20 fee. God bless America.

Chicago is every bit as much a city as New York, and I say that with no reservations. It is just as diverse, just as crowded, just as historic, and just as interesting. Of course (after contemplating suicide in traffic for an hour in my vehicle), I toured the city on two wheels. My weapon of choice was my hand-builtthrowback commuter that I have named "Brittany", which I've built from the corpses of bikes I found in my grandfather's garage. Pictures will be coming soon - she still has some work needed to be done before her online debut. But she's a great bike, and one that I'm very proud of. As I rode along the shores of Lake Michigan (Chicago has beaches downtown!) on my converted single-speed relic with no brakes (it's not a fixed-gear bike, I just am not very good at successfully routing brake cables just yet) among dedicated "roadies" on their thousand-dollar-dream-machines in the rain I was reminded just how cool bikes are. In a five minute eye-survey, I caught an overweight woman on a beach cruiser with every possible piece of safety gear imaginable, a roadie on a $7,000 Pinarello frame, a commuter in a suit, a commuter on a packhorse of a bike with panniers and a grocery-getter box, and a true-to-form fixie hipster with no helmet and a cigarette in his mouth (yes, in his mouth. in the rain. on his bike.). Bikes are one of the great equalizers, and Susan B. Anthony even went as far to say that they were the single greatest contributer to women's rights advancement. If that's not equalizing, I don't know what is. Bikes are very, very cool.

I could go into obscene details about my travels as of late, but I don't really have the time to do that just now. Ask me when you see me, and I'll be happy to talk about it all over an espresso. That being said, here are the finer points:

- I don't miss Norfolk, VA in the least, but there are some great people there who I miss very much. You know who you are - and I was very fortunate to see most of you during my visit.
- My brother has graduated college, and is now officially much, much smarter than I am. I couldn't be prouder of that kid.
- Miami is still too hot for me, and definitely not my scene. I do love Cuban food, though, and Cuban coffee may be the foundation of a religion I start in the future.
- Were it not for the lack of anything to do (no snow, no hills, no burgeoning music scene), Old Town Alexandria would be a cool place to live. Savanna, GA is the same way, but with a music scene. Not enough to let me consider living there, but it's a very cool town.
- Chicago is a real city.
- Wrigley Field is every bit as cool as billed.
- My parents will be living in a cooler place (Japan) and doing cooler things than I will be doing (anything in Japan) as of next week.
- Indiana is almost as painful to drive through as Kanas, although that might be attributed to it costing $15.00 for no reason in tolls.
- Floyd Landis is an idiot.
- Esperanza Spalding's version of "Tell Him" is slightly better than Lauryn Hill's. But it's close. You should listen to both.
- Sleeping in an SUV laying down is vastly preferable to sleeping in the driver's seat of a Ford Thunderbird.

More to come, as always. Pictures will be up soon as well - the connection here can't handle it. Rest assured, though - they're good. Travel well, my friends.

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